updated 7/17/2006 1:34:27 PM ET 2006-07-17T17:34:27

Guests: Pat Buchanan, Terry Holt, John Parker

TUCKER CARLSON, HOST:  Welcome to the show.

Let‘s get right to breaking news from the Middle East, where battles are raging between Israel and Hezbollah for a third straight day.  Israel blasted sites throughout Lebanon, hitting Hezbollah headquarters in southern Beirut and striking the main highway to Damascus overnight.  Hezbollah guerillas fired back, launching at least 50 rockets across northern Israel throughout the day.

The death toll has reached 73 in Lebanon so far, and at least 12 in Israel.  That includes a mother and a daughter killed in a rocket attack.

The question is, how does this affect the United States?  Some are saying this could lead to a wider war in the Middle East, one that includes Iran and possibly even the United States.

Here to explain how that might happen, if it might happen, and what it might mean, MSNBC analyst Pat Buchanan, who joins us from Washington.

Pat, welcome.

PAT BUCHANAN, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST:  Hey, Tucker.  How are you?

CARLSON:  I‘m fine, thanks.

I want to know if you think this is a possibility, a wider Mideast war that includes Iran and, in fact, the United States.

BUCHANAN:  I don‘t believe so, Tucker.  In order to widen this war, I think the Israelis would have to go after Damascus and Syria.

I don‘t see them doing that.  And I think the president of the United States, or at least the secretary of state, is trying to restrain the Israelis to some extent.  But I don‘t see why the Iranians or the Syrians would get into it on their own initiative. 

So I don‘t see it getting wider geographically as of right now. 

CARLSON:  Well, if I were Israel, I would be concerned, above all—and, I mean, above all—with Iran.  Here you have a country that may soon have a nuclear weapon, that clearly is run by someone who is a religious extremist, if not fully unbalanced, who hates you, whose whole life is organized around hating you.  I would—I would be interested in disarming Iran by force at the first available opportunity.

Is this not such an opportunity? 

BUCHANAN:  Well, I don‘t know—I don‘t know that Iran is behind this for certain what‘s going on.  I do know Hamas is there, and either in solidarity or in unison, Hezbollah is there. 

But look, I don‘t think Israel is that deeply concerned right now about Iran for this reason: Iran, the mullahs have been in power 27 years and they have yet to start their first war.  Secondly, why would they start a war by firing rockets at Israel, when Israel has about 300 nuclear weapons and the Iranians have none? 

These people may be crazy, but they are not stupid.  I don‘t think they want a war with a superpower like the United States.  I don‘t think they want a war with Israel. 

I think they do want to defy us before the world, to win tremendous support at the grassroots.  But I don‘t think they‘re going to let the balloon go up because Iran would lose the war. 

CARLSON:  What does this mean for the United States?  Is this—as this progresses, as it gets progressively more intense, are American interests at stake here beyond the obvious ones, the price of oil, for instance?  What are our other interests?

BUCHANAN:  I really think so.  And I fault the president, to a degree, because he‘s outsourced our Middle East policy to Ariel Sharon and Olmert. 

We have no lines to Iran or Syria.  We don‘t communicate with them or Hezbollah, or Hamas, even though Hamas is in power because of elections Bush wanted. 

What—a real jeopardy is we‘ve got 25,000 people in Lebanon right now, we‘ve got a government there as a result of a Cedar revolution that George Bush supported.  And it is being hammered by the Israelis, the infrastructure is being hammered, the power system is being hammered, the one innocent party here is the Lebanese government and the Lebanese people, who don‘t want this war and who didn‘t start this fight. 

I think Israel is unfairly hammering them when it is clear the enemy is in that 10-mile zone just north of Israel, Hezbollah, which is where those firing all those Katyusha rockets. 

CARLSON:  Well, it‘s clear that many Lebanese, many of who, of course, who are Christian, or Sunni Muslims, who are not extremists in any sense, who are merchants, some of who are sympathetic to the United States, don‘t deserve any of this.  But let‘s go back to Hezbollah and what you said a minute ago about the United States opening up some kind of diplomatic relationships with Hamas and Hezbollah. 

Why would that be a good idea?  I mean, they are terrorist groups.

BUCHANAN:  Well, wait a minute.  Hamas is in power and Hezbollah is in the—is in the cabinet in Lebanon for one reason.  George Bush demanded free elections, we said we‘d abide by the results.  So Hamas surprisingly wins, Hezbollah becomes part of the cabinet—I think they‘ve got one seat up there in Beirut—but at that point, these people who—I mean, who were engaging in terrorism, or who did, they had a stake then in peace.  Some stake.

And so if I am the United States, which is the world‘s great superpower, I think you‘ve got to keep lines out to anybody, Tucker. 

Look, how did the president disarm Gadhafi, who is a murderous devil, who brought down that plane at Lockerbie, killed more Americans than Hezbollah and Hamas ever dreamed of, but we let him get out of his box in order for doing something? 

It is great power diplomacy.  And my fear with regard to President Bush is, he‘s not asking like the leader of the world, quite frankly.  We are too much basically a Xerox copy of what Olmert and his government do. 

CARLSON:  Well, you said a minute ago that it was surprising that Hamas won the election.  I don‘t think I‘m surprised one bit. 

All of the democratic elections in this region seem to give the advantage to the extremist groups.  I mean, if you held a democratic election in Egypt right now, if you allowed, you know, the entire government of Egypt to be chosen by the people of Egypt, you‘d wind up with some serious wackos who hate Americans. 

BUCHANAN:  Well...

CARLSON:  Would you not?

BUCHANAN:  ... you‘d wind up with a Muslim brotherhood in power.

CARLSON:  That‘s exactly who you‘d wind up with.

BUCHANAN:  But look—look, the point is, Tucker, the whole region over there is moving very much in that direction.  And the United States is the greatest power on earth, and we‘re going to be for a while longer, I think.  And that means you‘ve got to put out lines and you‘ve got to deal with these people. 

CARLSON:  But why are we pushing democracy on countries whose population hates us?  I mean, if democracy is, you know, the process by which a population chooses its government, why are we urging these governments to put—you know, to turn themselves over to people who hate us?  Why are we for democracy in a region that hates us?  I don‘t get that. 

BUCHANAN:  The reason we are is because George Bush has been listening to ideologues called the neoconservatives whom we warned about for a long, long time that this part of the world was in such ferment, that you would be far better off dealing in a way—dealing with people like Mubarak, gently moving them, building the institutions first, rather than holding elections. 

Bush didn‘t do that.  But I will say this.  Once Hamas won the election, I think what Bush should have done is gone in and said, look, ok, you guys won, we may not like it.  We‘re giving aid here.  We will continue to support you on one condition: you keep that truce. 

One act of terror traceable to you, and we cut you off.  But you will be responsible for the cutoff. 

Instead, Israel declares a blockade of Hamas, we‘re going to bring it down, a starvation blockade.  The Americans go along.  Everybody knew where this was going to end. 

CARLSON:  Well, I actually don‘t know where it‘s going to end.  Where is this going to end at this point? 

BUCHANAN:  Look, the Israelis are going to have to deal with these people.  Look, the Israelis, I think they believe they can get behind their wall, they can enclose Jerusalem, they can hold the Jordan valley, they can push these people off into their bandstands and forget them and live happily ever after. 

The Katyushas and the Kassam rockets are telling them they can‘t do

that.  And I think the president of the United States should not have given

and I do believe he gave it—in effect, said, OK, whatever you guys decide, Olmert, that‘s our policy.  He has got to start acting like the leader of the entire world. 

Why aren‘t we talking to Syria for heaven‘s sakes?  They have not attacked the United States.  They‘ve helped us in some cases, I understand, in Iraq.  They‘re providing sanctuary for tens—hundreds of thousands of Christians.  OK, and...

CARLSON:  But they‘re also—but wait.  They‘re also providing sanctuary for some large unknown number of insurgents in Iraq.

BUCHANAN:  They are.  Listen...

CARLSON:  And they may also be holding the weapons of mass destruction that we can‘t find.  I mean, but that‘s truly so.  I mean, that is a real possibility, as you know. 

BUCHANAN:  I don‘t believe...

BUCHANAN:  No, I mean, Syria?  I‘m with you part way, but Syria, a good guy?  Hard to swallow. 

BUCHANAN:  All right.  Let me see.  (INAUDIBLE) slaughtered 20,000 people in Hama (ph), brought up artillery, their Muslim brotherhood.  That‘s how he took care of them. 

George Bush‘s father made him an ally of the United States in the Gulf War I.  And Nixon had to go to China and deal with these barbarians over there. 

Tucker, if we‘re going to be the greatest power—and most of the people in power, a lot of them got there by killing people.  Now, if you‘re going to be the greatest power on earth, that‘s what you‘ve got to do. 

Now, if you want to be just, look, we‘re on one side, we‘re the good guys, they‘re the bad guys, then I don‘t think you can be a world power. 

CARLSON:  Right, if you only want to win moral victories.  If you want to stand back and say, you know what, we‘re better than you.  But if you actually want to run the world, you have to deal with the evil ones. 

BUCHANAN:  If you say our hands are pure, we never deal with people like that...

CARLSON:  Right.

BUCHANAN:  ... come on.  We always have to.  You‘ve got—at some point you‘ve got to. 

And look, how do you think the Israelis got out of Lebanon without dealing with Hezbollah saying, we‘ll move out here, this, that.  You know they‘re dealing with it.  The Israelis used to kidnap Hezbollah guys and trade them for their own people. 

That‘s the way this world works. 

CARLSON:  We ought to be a lot more like Israel in that way as far as I‘m concerned. 

You‘ve made a compelling case. 

Pat Buchanan from Washington, thank you very much. 

BUCHANAN:  Delighted, Tucker. 

CARLSON:  Still to come, Lewis Black may be the angriest man in America.  Now he‘s mad at CNN.  See his rant for yourself on today‘s “Beat the Press” segment. 

And why the GOP doesn‘t want you to watch a new political ad.  Is it a case of see no evil?

That story is coming up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CARLSON:  Welcome back.  It‘s time for “Beat the Press.”

Last night on FOX, Bill O‘Reilly interviewed his colleague Geraldo Rivera.  The two chatted about the mob hit Geraldo apparently survived and about the latest war in the Middle East.  And, of course, about George Smith, the guy who disappeared more than a year ago while on his honeymoon cruise.  His wife says she blacked out that night and has no idea what happened to her husband.

Geraldo, for one, doesn‘t buy it.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GERALDO RIVERA, JOURNALIST:  I have no doubt that Jennifer Hagel Smith does not want to be deposed, because Jennifer Hagel Smith was either with Lloyd, the casino manager, or someone else that night during her honeymoon.  And I do not believe that Jennifer Hagel Smith had this blackout. 

I‘ve had plenty of parties in my life, Bill, believe it or not.  I have—I cannot remember having a night where I had amnesia and totally didn‘t remember what I did, particularly on any of my honeymoons.  I remember more or less what went down. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CARLSON:  “Any of my honeymoons,” just another reminder of Geraldo‘s past.  If you‘ll remember, “Exposing Myself,” his autobiography, in which he concedes he slept with Bette Midler and a thousand other women.  This guy is a Hefner-loving booty master, and he ought to get credit for it.

Cheers, Geraldo.

Next up, former CBS anchor John Roberts sat in for Anderson Cooper last night on CNN.  After a news update on the ailing Kentucky Derby winner Barbaro, Roberts revealed a genuinely startling knowledge about equine diseases. 

Here‘s his diagnosis.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  A little hope tonight for Barbaro.  Doctors say the condition of the Kentucky Derby champion has worsened and his chance of survival are poor.  Barbaro shattered a leg in the Preakness.  Another leg has become badly diseased because its had to bear excessive weight since the injury, John. 

It‘s just so sad.

JOHN ROBERTS, CNN ANCHOR:  Oh, it is.  It‘s a real shame for that horse.  I know laminitis can be a real problem with those animals, and once they get it, very often that‘s really kind of the death nail for them. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CARLSON:  Laminitis?  What is that?  That‘s the kind of disease you have to have your own polo pony to know what it is.

This is the same network, you‘ll remember, that earlier this week did a segment on the threat to California Chardonnay of global warming.  Now polo pony diseases.  Next week, barnicles you may get on your yacht.

And finally, get more on CNN Wednesday on “American Morning.”  Co-host Miles O‘Brien chatted with comedian Lewis Black.  That is, until Lewis decided to take editorial control of the network.  And the amazing thing, the network obeyed. 

Watch. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

LEWIS BLACK, COMEDIAN:  Let me just say this to CNN.

MILES O‘BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR:  Yes, go ahead.

BLACK:  You guys have got—wherever this camera is—you guys have

got to start—take the thing off the bottom of the page.  You don‘t have

take the words off the bottom of the screen.  There are people talking here.  Anger management?  Do you need it explained to you? 

O‘BRIEN:  I don‘t think you like the crawl.  Is that right?

BLACK:  I hate—the crawl started on 9/11.  There‘s no need for it. 

They‘re listening—here‘s who‘s talking.  We don‘t want you to read, do we?  We want you to hear you so we can wander around the house. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CARLSON:  And they actually took it down.  Amazing. 

CNN has this thing about taking orders from comedians.  They always obey.  But it gives the rest of us hope. 

Does this mean if you don‘t like something on CNN‘s air, something that‘s really offensive, you can just snap your fingers and it will go away?  Like a massive remote from god? 

I love it.  I love the possibilities. 

Well, how would you like to help us “Beat the Press.”  Give us a call and tell us what you‘ve seen.  Operators are standing by now and always.  The number—get a pen -- 877-BTP-5876.  That‘s 877-287-5876.  And that‘s BTP for those of you, like me, who have dyslexia.

Still to come, this is no way to support our troops.  A soldier who fought for this country in Afghanistan and Iraq returns home to find out he‘s out of a job.  That story is ahead. 

And, betrayed by the White House.  That‘s what Valerie Plame claims happened to her, but there may be less to this story than meets the eye. 

Stay tuned. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CARLSON:  Welcome back.

My next guest may be the most powerful man in TV news.  Not Katie Couric, not Brian Williams, not even Charlie Gibson.  No, the most powerful person in television news is 20 years old.  He‘s a college student, he‘s a blgger, he works from his dorm room in Maryland.

And trust me, everyone in this business reads him every day, at least one. 

Brian Stelter is the editor of “TV Newser,” a Web site that has been called the “Energizer Bunny of media blogs.”  We‘re proud to have him join us now from Baltimore. 

Brian, welcome.

BRIAN STELTER, EDITOR, “TV NEWSER”:  Thank you.

CARLSON:  When did you realize how incredibly powerful you were? 

STELTER:  Well, I think I‘m only powerful if people are reading me. 

You know, it‘s all about the audience.

And I think when I started seeing the traffic in 2004, with tens of thousands of readers every day, I realized, well, I‘m really on to something here.  TV news people really want to read aboutcom TV news people. 

CARLSON:  Yes.  I remember being at the—well, I first realized it at the White House correspondents dinner last year, I think, when I saw Jon Klein, the head of CNN, just slobbering all over you in (INAUDIBLE), just really fawning over you. 

Is it—is it weird to be when you‘re 19 then to have the head of a cable news network sucking up to you? 

STELTER:  Well, I don‘t know if he was sucking up. 

CARLSON:  Oh, he was sunking up, buddy.  Let me tell you. 

STELTER:  Well, there‘s been other times where he sent out memos saying, “Stop talking to TV Newser.”  And so is the president of MSNBC and so is the president of FOX News.  And so it‘s interesting that sometimes they do act like your best friend and sometimes they don‘t. 

CARLSON:  Does it work?  I mean, when they say don‘t talk to “TV Newser,” or don‘t talk to Brian Stelter, do people stop talking to you?  And who does talk to you, by the way?

STELTER:  They might stop talking for a few days.  I know that once FOX News chairman Roger Ailes got in the newsroom and said this wannabe journalist is trying to hurt us, stop talking to him.  And I didn‘t get any more anonymous tips for a wile.  But eventually they start writing in again, because people love talking about their jobs, people love sending messages about what‘s going on at their company. 

CARLSON:  And did you get high-level people from the—from the three news networks calling you up and telling you things? 

STELTER:  Once in a while.  It‘s oftentimes the people on the lower end of the scale, the people just getting started, who are also fans.  But it really runs the gamut.  And the strange things about blogs is, sometimes you don‘t know who‘s writing to you. 

You know, I have an anonymous tip box where anyone can write anything.  And I have no idea who‘s talking to me in that box.  But usually it‘s pretty accurate. 

CARLSON:  Well, the reason—it is accurate, and that‘s the reason people read you.  There are a lot of sites devoted to television and TV news and cable news, but your is pretty accurate.

If you say someone is getting fired, usually that person gets fired, for instance. 

How do you—if you take a lot of anonymous tips, how do you make certain that the things you print are true? 

STELTER:  Well, I usually check with the network.  You know, if I get a tip that says someone has been fired or someone has been hired, I‘ll email to a spokesperson at the network and ask, because I know that if I screw up once really big, it‘s over.  You know, I lose all my credibility. 

If I say Tucker Carlson is moving to 4:00 p.m., he‘d better be moving to 4:00, or else I‘m not going to be taken seriously.  And in that way, blogs are a lot like newspapers or television. 

CARLSON:  I remember when you told me I was moving to 4:00.  I was shocked. 

How much TV do you watch? 

STELTER:  Not enough, actually.  A lot of it comes from readers who tell me what‘s going on.  And then I double check, and things like that. 

CARLSON:  But let‘s say you‘re a guy who blogs about TV news for a living—well, I guess you don‘t actually do it for a living.  You‘re also a college student.  But you do it. 

What‘s your day like?  I mean, are you constantly marinating in TV news? 

STELTER:  Well, I wake up, then I blog, and I go to class, then I blog.  And I go—and I blog before I go to sleep.  And it really just becomes part of your life. 

I think for a lot of bloggers, they‘re just out there posting in between everything else they do.  You know, it‘s not uncommon for me to run off and blog for five minutes in between class nowadays.

CARLSON:  So what do you think of cable news?  Do you like it?

I mean, with all due respect—and I think I‘ve said this to you before, and many times we‘ve eaten dinner together.  It‘s a little odd to have an obsession about cable news.  Don‘t you think?  What do you think of cable news?  Do you like it?

STELTER:  I think it‘s very odd. 

CARLSON:  Yes, it is odd, you weirdo.

STELTER:  I like it half of the time.  You know, I watched MSNBC from the day it was born, and I watched FOX from the day it was born.  And so I‘ve seen it change over the last 10 years or so.  And it‘s like news half the time, and then it‘s this powdery, sugary sweet substance the other half of the time that tastes really good but it‘s not really news. 

And I‘m not saying that‘s bad, but, you know, we have to recognize that people like Nancy Grace there aren‘t always delivering the news that we think they might be. 

CARLSON:  Has she ever delivered the news, do you think?  Ever?  I mean, have you ever caught her delivering legitimate news?  Or is it all child molesters...

STELTER:  I try—I try not to watch too much news at 8:00.  Between O‘Reilly and Grace, it just sometimes gets a little bit too much. 

CARLSON:  Is there anything you don‘t like?  Is there anything you‘re biased against, you just don‘t care for, you think it‘s bad programming? 

STELTER:  You know, that‘s a hard question. 

CARLSON:  Including this network.  I mean, be honest. 

STELTER:  Well, I try to see it from the executive‘s point of view.  You know, I don‘t like the fact that we chase after Natalee Holloway stories, but I see the ratings, so I see it works.  And if it works, and it get the numbers, I can‘t really criticize it.  Can I?  I mean, this is a business about money in the end, just like anything else. 

CARLSON:  Boy, you‘re a cynical man at 20.  What are you going to do after this?  I mean, you graduate, what, next year? 

STELTER:  Next May. 

CARLSON:  So are you going to become a television executive? 

STELTER:  I‘m not sure if I can handle that.  I‘m losing enough hair as it is. 

CARLSON:  I don‘t know.  I think you‘d be good. 

How does this help your dating life?  I mean, do people on campus know that there‘s this guy Brian and that he kind of retreats into the darkness of his room and types about cable news?  Is that considered cool?  Is that considered terrifying?

What do the other kids think? 

STELTER:  I don‘t think most of them know about it.  You know, I‘ve gotten a few e-mails from students who are adding me on their face book now that they saw me in the newspapers.  But I don‘t think most students read blogs for a living the way I do.

So, a lot of them aren‘t aware. 

CARLSON:  Yes.  And watch as much TV as you do.  You said you want to watch more.

This is a little personal, but tell me, since you are watching all the time, is there any figure in television you‘ve slowly come to fall in love with? 

STELTER:  Not that I can thoi of, no.  Sorry.  Not even you. 

CARLSON:  Boy.  You‘re a—you‘re a hard man, Brian Stelter. 

What‘s the best—what‘s the best tip you‘ve ever gotten? 

STELTER:  That‘s really hard.  I‘ve gotten a lot of weird tips that aren‘t true.  People actually try to deceive me, and they give me actually fake information they try to get me to post on the blog. 

CARLSON:  Now, who would do that apart from FOX? 

STELTER:  Well, I don‘t know.  NBC, for instance, someone kept sending me tips right after Katie Couric left that were completely false, but they were signing it with a real person‘s name.  So they were trying to make me think it was real, and I had to call that person and say, “You didn‘t really send me this, did you?” 

And so I don‘t know who that was sending me it, but...

CARLSON:  Who‘s—and finally, who‘s P.R. department is the most diabolical?

STELTER:  Oh, we‘re not going to get into that.  That‘s going to take all day. 

CARLSON:  Oh, be honest.  It‘s FOX, isn‘t it?

STELTER:  That‘s going to take all day.

CARLSON:  You‘re very diplomatic.  You will go far, Brian Stelter. 

I‘m going to read your site the second we get off the show. 

Thanks, Brian.

STELTER:  Thanks, Tucker.

CARLSON:  Still to come, why the rest of this country could learn a lesson from the town of Hazleton, Pennsylvania, where they‘re getting tough on illegal immigration. 

Also ahead, Al Gore, fashionista?  Mr. pleated pants?  Well, he‘s the inspiration for one top designer‘s new line of clothing. 

Will his own personal project runway pan out in the end?  We‘ll make predictions. 

We‘ll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CARLSON:  Still to come, Republicans are up in arms about a Democratic campaign ad that shows the flag-draped coffins of soldiers from Iraq.  What‘s wrong with telling the truth about the war?  Those coffins were real.

Plus, could Joe Lieberman‘s public kiss of President Bush cost him his Senate seat.  We‘ll get to all that in just a minute, but right now, here‘s a look at your headlines. 

(STOCK MARKET UPDATE)

CARLSON:  Time now for a quick look at the people and stories making news today.  An update to a story we first brought you on this show several weeks ago.  The Hazelton, Pennsylvania, city council has now approved an ordinance that denies licenses to businesses that employ illegal aliens and fines landlords who rent to them.  It also requires city documents to be in English only. 

Ooh, very controversial.  Enforcing laws already on the books and making the obvious official.  The laws, of course, are against illegal immigration.  Those exist.  The city is enforcing them.  Somehow, that‘s radical?  As for the English language, it‘s our language, the thing that holds us together. 

So here is one small town making the statement that actually, our common language really matters, and they derided immediately as bigots.  They‘re going the right thing. 

Well, this very public kiss between Joe Lieberman and President Bush could cost the Connecticut senator the seat he‘s held for 18 years.  The embrace happened at the 2005 State of the Union address.  It‘s being used by Lieberman‘s opponents on the left as a reminder of the incumbent‘s support for the president as well as the war in Iraq. 

There is no—and if you look carefully at that picture, you‘ll notice—there is no evidence of tongue.  This is a completely fraternal kiss, nothing untoward about it at all.  And have we reached the day where hugging and embracing the president of the United States is considered so offensive that you lose your job over it? 

On the other hand, Joe Lieberman is a supporter of the war, and if you don‘t like the war and you‘re a Democrat, it makes all the sense in the world you‘d vote against Joe Lieberman.  So if you don‘t like the war, vote against Jerry Lieberman, but not because of the kiss.  Come on.

Well, noted fashion plate Al Gore has found his way into some of this country‘s hippest boutiques.  The designer Mark Jacobs has introduced a new line of clothing promoting a Gore presidency.  T-shirts, tote bags, and trucker hats scream the words, “Al, save us.”  The shirt costs $20. 

These are like those Che Guevara shirts.  People laughed at Che Guevara when he was alive, when he died ignominiously in Bolivia lo those many 39 years ago.  But once dead, he became an icon. 

It‘s the same with Al Gore.  Nobody really believes Gore could be president or even should be president.  If a Gore presidency was possible, people would be scared to death about that.  You wouldn‘t want to be lectured by Al Gore for four years.  Truly, you wouldn‘t.  It‘s all funny until someone actually runs for president.

Well, congressional Republicans are furious at a Democratic House Campaign Committee video that contains a picture of flag-draped coffins of U.S. soldiers.  Republicans say Democrats have crossed the line this time using American casualties to politicize the war in Iraq. 

Well, here to explain why exactly they‘re mad, Republican campaign strategist Terry Holt.  He joins me from Washington. 

Terry, welcome. 

TERRY HOLT, REPUBLICAN CAMPAIGN STRATEGIST:  Hey, Tucker.  Nice to see you again. 

CARLSON:  Nice to see you.  I don‘t get this at all.  You‘ve had 2,500 American soldiers killed in Iraq.  They all came back in coffins draped with American flags.  That‘s the truth.  Why is it so offensive to say that out loud?  I don‘t get it at all. 

HOLT:  Well, it‘s a solemn loss for the country.  These people gave their lives for freedom and for the citizens of this country.  And to make it a political issue is disgusting.  But, you know...

CARLSON:  Wait, wait, wait.  Why is it disgusting?  War, of course, is a political issue.  We go to war because the president tells us to go to war.  We elect the president to make exactly those kinds of decisions.  If you don‘t agree with that decision, elect a new president or a new party. 

HOLT:  And I would fight for their right to put this ad on the air whenever they like.  I just think that most Americans are going to be offended by it. 

CARLSON:  But I don‘t get why, that‘s the point.  And, you know, Republicans are always accused of, you know, pulling the patriotism card and intimidating their enemies, their opponents, with, you know, the implication that they‘re not patriotic. 

And I always think that that‘s a bunch of crap.  but in this case, in this one specific case, I do think it‘s very unfair of Republicans to start crying foul at an ad that may be stupid but is technically accurate, and I think totally fair. 

HOLT:  But there are people under those draped coffins. 

CARLSON:  That‘s the point. 

HOLT:  The loss of the families there—that‘s right, that‘s the point.  It‘s above politics, or at least it should be.  Although, Tucker, you know, I don‘t know that this ad is going to be seen by anybody, really.  I mean, this is an ad that was directed at the most liberal elite of the Democratic Party. 

This is the summer of getting your base excited, and this ad was meant to talk to the most liberal wing of the Democratic Party, get it excited for the next election.  And so I‘m not sure that I care that much that they stepped over the line. 

CARLSON:  But wait a second.  I‘m not the liberal elite.  I am literally the most conservative person I know, literally.  I don‘t know anybody more conservative than I am.  I can say that sincerely, look directly at the camera, and mean it with my heart, OK?

But I‘m very angry at President Bush because of the war in Iraq and because those 2,500 men have been killed—and women, for that matter, too.  I think it‘s awful, and I think it‘s a mistake for which he ought to be held accountable.  Am I not allowed to say that?  Am I a liberal if I say that? 

HOLT:  No.  In fact, I think that the debate over about we should do in Iraq and how we win the war on terrorism, the substantive policy debates around that, should be really all there is in this next election.  It is the number one issue for most Americans. 

The Republicans in the Congress just a few weeks ago had a full debate about that, and I think that the American people gave them credit for it.  We can have that debate every day of the week. 

But this ad isn‘t about that.  It‘s about tapping into people‘s anxieties and fears and sense of loss for the purposes of getting a leg up, politically, for the purposes of inspiring the most angry voter in the Democratic Party, and frankly, for the purposes of raising money for the Democratic Party. 

CARLSON:  Well, of course.  Like all political ads—I mean, I wouldn‘t give money to the Democratic Party if my life depended on it.  I‘m not endorsing the Democratic Party.  I‘m just saying all ads have that as their goal. 

But not just Democrats, though, are mad.  You‘ve clearly seen the new AP poll that shows that 25 percent of self-described conservatives are so mad at Bush, they plan on voting for the Democrats four months from now—less than four months from now—in the midterm. 

Now, whether they actually will or not is a totally separate question, as you know.  But the fact that they‘re saying that, that 25 percent of all conservatives are saying they plan to vote for Democrats—I mean, that just seems to me a harbinger of disaster. 

HOLT:  Well, the numbers in that poll are lousy. 

CARLSON:  Well, they may be.  But what do you think of that?  That‘s an unbelievable number. 

HOLT:  Well, and I think it means that we really have a lot of work to do to communicate to our base about the real choice that voters have coming in the next election, that by voting Democrats in office and putting the liberal San Francisco Democrat Nancy Pelosi in the speaker‘s chair would be a disaster for the American people.

It would be a disaster for the economy.  It would put our national security regime into a tailspin.  It would gut defense.  People like the congressman from Virginia said that he‘d earmark the blank out of the budget so that he could take home pork for his constituents. 

So this is about a choice.  And, in fact, this poll, while it isn‘t good, this is a choice where the American people will vote their congressman versus their opponent.  And in that choice, the Democrats have yet to make a tangible case why they should be in charge. 

CARLSON:  Boy, you‘d better hope they don‘t because people are mad at the Republicans, including me. 

HOLT:  I think that‘s true.  But you‘ve seen in Utah and in California recently, the Democrats have failed to really win an election yet.  And until they can demonstrate that they can win at the ballot box, I don‘t see a way. 

CARLSON:  Good luck.  I mean, I guess I hope you‘re right, sort of.  I don‘t know.  We‘ll see.  Good luck.  Terry Holt, thanks. 

HOLT:  Thank you. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

VALERIE PLAME, FORMER CIA EMPLOYEE:  I and my former CIA colleagues trusted our government to protect us as we did our jobs.  That a few reckless individuals within the current administration betrayed that trust has been a grave disappointment to every patriotic American. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CARLSON:  Well, not to every patriotic American, including me.  I wasn‘t disappointed one bit.  Former CIA employee Valerie Plame explains why she‘s taking Dick Cheney to court.  Plame and her husband, ex-ambassador Joe Wilson are suing the vice president. 

They claim her CIA status was leaked to reporters by Cheney and his inner circle.  The suit alleges Plame was outed to punish her husband for criticizing the Bush administration‘s war policy in a “New York Times” op-ed. 

All of that prompted us to hit the legal books in search of other cases that, while not necessarily precedent setting, do raise the bar for unusual or gutsy lawsuits.  We rest our case with some bizarre legal briefs in today‘s “Top Five.”

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

Our great American legal system grants us all our day in court, but is that right being abused by a shameless pack of court jesters?  You be the judge.  Notorious serial killer Kenneth Bianchi, AKA the Hillside Strangler, is serving a life term in Washington State for murdering 12 young women. 

KENNETH BIANCHI, CONVICTED MURDERER:  I have to take responsibilities for what I‘ve done. 

CARLSON:  Now, he‘s demanding restitution.  Yes, you heard that right.  Bianchi is suing Washington‘s Whatcom County for emotional distress and 23 years of lost wages. 

When it comes to the debate over circumcision, the first cut is always the deepest. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Circumcision has no health benefits, as far as we‘re concerned.

CARLSON:  One North Dakota judge might agree.  He approved an anti-circumcision lawsuit for trial, thus allowing the possibility for circumcised males to sue the doctor when they reach 18, even if there was a parental consent for the cut.  Yes, revenge is a dish best served cold. 

In 1999, schoolmates Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold masterminded a bloody massacre at Colorado‘s Columbine High, killing 12 fellow students and one teacher before ending their own lives.  Shortly thereafter, Klebold‘s parents stunned the community again by filing a lawsuit against local authorities.  They‘re angry that the cops never warned them that their son was on the verge of a murderous rampage. 

Scott Bender of Philadelphia went on a legal rampage after waking up in a dark plane cabin.  The snoozing passenger claims he thought the plane had crashed and he was dead.  Bender eventually learned he was, in fact, alive, but still sued U.S. Airways for emotional anguish.

Now, here‘s a lawsuit that may not hold much water.  In 1999, 27-year-old Daniel Dukes snuck into Sea World, Orlando, for a private moonlight dip with a 5-ton Orca whale.  But his plan tanked. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I don‘t know exactly what happened or how he drowned. 

CARLSON:  Daniel‘s family thinks Sea World is liable for portraying its mascot as cute and huggable.  I‘m sorry for your loss, Mr. and Mrs.  Dukes, but there‘s a reason they call them killer whales.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  This particular animal is not an animal that our own trainers interact with. 

(END VIDEOTAPE)

CARLSON:  Coming up, imagine leaving your job at home to fight for the U.S. abroad and returning to find out you‘ve been fired.  Meet a teacher who doesn‘t have to imagine it.  His outrageous story is next. 

Plus, Ed McMahon made a career out of laughing at Johnny Carson‘s jokes.  We‘ll tell you why playing second fiddle has landed him at the top of a distinguished list.  We‘re coming right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CARLSON:  Welcome back.  A Tennessee army reservist left his wife, his life, his job as a school teacher, to fight for his country in Afghanistan and Iraq.  He came home after two tours of duty to face another battle, one for his job. 

Captain John Parker was notified this April that the administration at Wilson Central High School in Lebanon, Tennessee no longer wanted him to teach criminal justice at the school.  Captain Parker joins me now from Nashville to tell his story.  Mr. Parker, thanks for coming on. 

CAPT. JOHN PARKER, U.S. ARMY RESERVIST:  You‘re welcome, Tucker. 

CARLSON:  So you went over twice, first to Afghanistan, then to Iraq, and you came back and found out you were fired.  Is that legal? 

PARKER:  Well, no, not under the statute it‘s not legal. 

CARLSON:  What was the excuse given by the school? 

PARKER:  Well, there really wasn‘t an excuse.  I just received a letter that I would not be rehired at the end of the school year. 

CARLSON:  Well, why—do you have any clue as to why that happened? 

PARKER:  No, I don‘t.  They, at first, said that there wouldn‘t be enough students for the next school year.  And then after that, I didn‘t receive any other information. 

CARLSON:  This must be—this kind of thing must be a concern for every reservist heading off to a posting, war, or anywhere for a year, that your job is not going to be there when you get back.  It‘s my understanding, though, that a federal law protects you against getting canned for leaving.  Is that your understanding? 

PARKER:  Yes, that‘s my understanding, that, you know, under (inaudible) we have the right to come back to our jobs and that it‘s supposed to be protected.  And really, that‘s all we‘re asking for is to be able to come back and go back into the community and do our jobs. 

CARLSON:  We have here a letter from the school lawyer, Michael Jennings (ph).  He says, quote, “As the school system dedicated to teaching the values of this great country and one proud to honor and employ both veterans and active members of all branches of our nation‘s military, we look forward to this seeing this fairly litigated,” et cetera, et cetera. 

But the point here is that they say they have veterans on staff, so it‘s not like they‘re anti-military.  Do you buy that? 

PARKER:  Well, you know, during the time that I was there, I didn‘t know anybody else.  I know there was a prior situation that happened during Desert Storm, and that‘s really all I was aware of.  I didn‘t know anybody else in the reserve situation or National Guard at that time in the system.  

CARLSON:  I mean, the implication, of course, is that the school has something against the military or the Bush administration or the war in Iraq, or they‘re biased, essentially.  Is that what you think is going on? 

PARKER:  You know, I really don‘t know what‘s going on as far as what their views are, their political opinions, things of that nature.  I just feel that, you know, I went out and I did my duty, and I shouldn‘t have to choose between my job at home and my reserve job. 

CARLSON:  Well, of course you shouldn‘t have to, especially since you work for the government in both capacities.  This is a public school, correct? 

PARKER:  Yes. 

CARLSON:  Right.  So it‘s all part of the same thing.  It‘s all the United States government at one level or another.  When you came back, did you complain?  Did you say, you know, “Gee, I don‘t think you should fire me.  I don‘t think you can fire me,” and they said, “Tough luck”? 

PARKER:  Well, you know, we had school board meetings about it, talked with the principal, went through the standard chain of command situation there.  And all in all, in the end, I got the letter and they said they would not renew my contract at the end of the year. 

CARLSON:  I just want to ask you one final time, there‘s nothing else that we don‘t know?  You weren‘t arrested for anything, you didn‘t get into a fight with the principal?  There‘s nothing in your background that you‘re not telling us about? 

PARKER:  No, not at all.  Nothing at all. 

CARLSON:  Is the community on your side? 

PARKER:  So far, from what I understand, with some of the people that‘s talked to me in the past, yes, they‘re all positive about it. 

CARLSON:  Well, it seems to me you could just go to one of your senators, one of the United States senators from Tennessee, make about a three-minute phone call to that senator‘s Washington office and get this fixed immediately. 

PARKER:  Well, you know, we‘ve talked with some of the legislators out here in Tennessee.  And one of the things that we‘re trying to do is just make sure that this doesn‘t happen to anybody else.  And if it does happen to them, that they know that they have some type of recourse or action that they can go through. 

CARLSON:  But are you telling me that if you called Lamar Alexander, who is one of your senators, a Republican from Tennessee—if you called him and said, “Look, I‘m a returning veteran, and they canned me,” you think he wouldn‘t lean on the school to get you rehired in about a minute? 

PARKER:  Oh, there‘s no doubt. 

CARLSON:  Why don‘t you do that, then? 

PARKER:  Well, we‘ve actually, like I said, talked with some of the legislators, Harold Ford Jr...

CARLSON:  Yes, he‘s a good guy.

PARKER:  and he‘s done a great job so far, you know.  We‘re real happy from the outcome of that so far.  And we‘re just going to let the things take their course and see where things run. 

CARLSON:  All right.  Mr. Parker, good luck. 

PARKER:  Thank you. 

CARLSON:  Still ahead, a classic politician-poses-with-baby-photo turns into a P.R. nightmare for George W. Bush.  We‘ll tell you how far the president handled this tantrum when we come right back. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CARLSON:  Welcome back.  We brought you the news over the last hour, but honestly, not all the news.  For the rest of the news, we go now to Willie Geist, our producer. 

WILLIE GEIST, MSNBC PRODUCER:  Hello, Tucker.  Can I just say something out of the gate?  Will someone please give Captain Parker a job?  He got fired from the school.  Somebody hire him.  Nashville, Lebanon, somebody. 

CARLSON:  He‘ll have a job by sunset in Nashville tonight. 

GEIST:  He better.  I hope he does. 

CARLSON:  Of course he will.

GEIST:  Before we get started, a little news out of “Entertainment Weekly.”  They ranked the 50 greatest sidekicks of all time.  Number one on that list, Ed McMahon.  Yes!  Yes, sir.  Ed McMahon was number one on the list.  Robin of “Batman and Robin” fame number two.  And you know what?  The funny thing is, I‘m not offended at all that I wasn‘t on the list. 

It‘s not a big deal, you know?  It‘s totally fine. 

CARLSON:  Is “sidekick” the euphemism we‘re using for Robin these days? 

GEIST:  Also, you know who else is one the list?  Tattoo, number nine, to Mr. Roarke.

CARLSON:  The late tattoo.  Unlamented. 

Well, it is the oldest trick in the book, the oldest trick ever.  You‘re working the rope line, you pick up a baby, you kiss it, and then you watch the adoring public coo.  But what happens when all of that backfires?  This happens. 

In Germany yesterday, President Bush grabbed a carefully selected baby from the crowd for a photo ed.  The infant immediately began to wail uncontrollably.  The president did his best to calm the baby down, but he eventually gave up and forked the kid back to its mom. 

GEIST:  Boy, the president cannot catch a break, Tucker.  I mean, you know, the baby was actually vetted by the secret service.  I‘m not kidding.  They found a baby they thought would not cry, and this was the result.  Is there any chance the baby might have been planted by the DNC or something for this particular photo op?  It‘s a little suspicious.

CARLSON:  When it rains, it pours.  And really, nothing upsets a child more than the secret service. 

GEIST:  No, that‘s very true.  Very scary.

CARLSON:  Well, there‘s nothing funny about drunk driving, of course, but occasionally, there‘s something ironic about it.  Pete Coors—he‘s the chairman and T.V. pitchman for the Coors Brewing Company confirmed today he was busted for a DUI back in May. 

Coors, who‘s been outspoken about responsible drinking, was pulled over outside Denver for blowing through a stop sign.  A police officer then arrested Coors on suspicion of DUI. 

GEIST:  Tucker, obviously, it‘s not a funny story, but you have to recognize and point out the irony.  I mean, if Oscar Meyer died by choking on a hot dog, we‘d point it out as well, right?  I mean, you just have to acknowledge it. 

CARLSON:  You know, Willie, it would be our job. 

GEIST:  It would be our job.  You can‘t blame him, by the way, for drinking a lot of beer at the wedding where he was.  You‘re the president of the company.  Let‘s get him a car service home. 

CARLSON:  I totally agree with that.  He was like one-half a point over. 

GEIST:  Barely over.  It‘s true.

CARLSON:  Poor guy.  Well, today is Bastille Day in France.  It‘s like the 4th of July except with much less to be proud of.  Just kidding.  I actually like France, of course.

President Jacques Chirac led a parade down the Champs Elysees in Paris to commemorate the storming of the Bastille.  That was in 1789, and it was, of course, the beginning of the French revolution, a very dark chapter in world history. 

GEIST:  Yes, it was,  Tucker.  And they actually took this holiday, this opportunity, to establish a new national greeting.  And it goes something like this.  There it is.  Bang.  It sends a message that France will no longer be a pushover in the world.  And it is, in fact, a new day in France.  Strength.

CARLSON:  It‘s the French belligerence that I love.  It‘s the rainbow warrior.  It‘s bringing your dog to the restaurant and letting him sit at the table.  It‘s smoking in elevators.  It‘s the “You know what?  I don‘t care what you want” kind of attitude.  It‘s a little bit appealing, you‘ve got to admit. 

GEIST:  I love the head butt.  They should do it more often. 

CARLSON:  I was in a French restaurant recently, and I ordered something, and the waiter literally looked at me and went, “No. No.”

GEIST:  Did he head butt you?

CARLSON:  No, he didn‘t head butt me.  He scorned me. 

Well, In Oregon, a woman recently called 911 with a strange emergency.  It seems an officer had come by her house earlier in the night to look into a noise complaint and the woman took a liking to him.  So she later called 911 to set up a date.  Here‘s part of her call. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Honey, I‘m just going to be honest with you, OK?  I thought he was cute.  I‘m 45 years old and I‘d like to meet him again but I don‘t know how to go about doing that without calling 911.  I know this is not absolutely in any way, shape, or form an emergency. 

GEIST:  Tucker, this is clearly an abuse of the 911 system, no question about it.  But emergency is a very subjective term, and if you‘re 45 and a single woman, you do have an emergency on your hands. 

CARLSON:  Willie Geist.  I hereby separate myself from that sentiment.

GEIST:  All right.

CARLSON:  Though, of course, it is true.  Thank you, Willie.  That‘s going to do it.  Thanks for watching.  Up next, “HARDBALL” with Chris.  Have a great weekend.

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

END   

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